I hit the refresh button willing the status update to appear early. It was Friday, February 8th and Hamilton College EDII decisions were coming out at 8:00 pm EST. I hit the refresh button again just as the clock changed to 11:00 pm Brasilia time and the blue “view update” link appeared. Breathing in and mentally preparing for the worst, I click the link. Confetti and the words “congratulations” flash across the screen as I start to bawl. I call my mom back home to share the good news and revel in my acceptance. The acceptance doesn’t feel real especially considering where I was this time last year.
Last year, I was in the same position as many of my peers: waiting. The collective impatience and nerves overwhelmed classrooms, lunch tables, and conversations. Those lucky enough to be accepted EA or ED were the few exceptions. I thought I’d soon join them upon the release of Boston University’s EDII decisions on February 15th. Only, my relief was deferred until March 21st. I remained positive and waited with everyone else. When I receive the notification email, anxiety and excitement filled my bedroom as I clicked the link. “Guaranteed transfer agreement” not “congratulations” appeared as hot tears rolled down my face. Wait some more is what Boston University was saying. Wait a year and then transfer sophomore year. The catch? I couldn’t defer the transfer agreement in order to participate in Global Citizen Year. I was at an impasse. Do I choose my “dream” school or take a gap year? Do I choose the chance to live abroad and experience a whole other culture while or go to a school I thought I loved and study abroad my junior year? Do I choose to take a leap of faith and make an uncommon choice or do I stay comfortable and make the common one? The decision was obvious: take a gap year. So, I said “yes” to Global Citizen Year and to wait another year, to go through the college process all over again, to pass another college decision day.
As I began my time in Brazil, I also re-started my college applications. I had planned on applying to the same schools, to finally receive that “congratulations” from Boston University, but instead I took a leap and applied to the QuestBridge National College Match program. QuestBridge aims to match low-income, high achieving high school seniors with top-tier colleges in the U.S. My senior year I decided not to apply to QuestBridge because I worried I wouldn’t be accepted into the program; however, I was done saying “no” to things simply because of the fear of failure. I had already jumped in head first to the experience of a lifetime in Brazil. I wasn’t going to be pushed around by the chance of hearing the word no. In October, I was notified that I was selected as a finalist for QuestBridge and began preparing my Match application. On December 3rd, QuestBridge released match decisions. Finalists who are matched with a QuestBridge partner receive a full four-year scholarship covering both tuition and expenses without loans and parent-contribution. While I was not matched, QuestBridge also has a regular decision program for finalists who were not matched. It is through this program that I was accepted to Hamilton College in Clinton, New York.
The fear of failure which had ruled my senior year had lead me not only to QuestBridge and Hamilton College, but this fear lead me to Global Citizen Year. Had I not spent my senior year being stressed, worried, and obsessed with failing, I would have not taken a gap year and reapplied to college. As cliche as it is, the phrase “everything happens for a reason” does ring true. In this moment, I know Boston University lead me to my future, and I also know Global Citizen Year has prepared me for my next four years at Hamilton. Hamilton’s motto is “Know Thyself”. They believe in self-exploration and discovery through an open, liberal arts curriculum, hands-on experience, and mentorship. My 7-months in Brazil has been filled with self-exploration, volunteer and internship experience with two non-profits, and learning outside of the classroom. Arriving on campus, I will already be immersed in the motto of “Know Thyself” thanks to Global Citizen Year. Global Citizen Year’s immersion program reinvigorated my love of learning, my self-confidence, and my passion for language.
Now, unlike last year, I am excited about College Decision Day on May 1st. Unlike last year, I am filled with the certainty of my choice. Unlike last year, I am not exhausted and at risk for burning out. Decision Day means so much more the second time because this time it is unruled by fear and uncertainty. It means so much more because not only am I happy with Hamilton College, I am finally happy with myself. Global Citizen Year and QuestBridge have lead me to a May 1st which will be filled with anticipation and joy for the future, and it will be so much sweeter the second time.